5 Jul 19

Weekly Media Trends (5 Jul 19)

5 Jul 19

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends: Alex from Glasto | Young Vic controversy | Robert the Bruce | Taylor Swift

Borkowski Weekly Media Trends

Stormzy was the big winner from Glastonbury this week (despite what our founder Mark Borkowski saw as a failure to capitalise on the symbolism of the event) but let's take a look at what else was happening on and off of Worthy Farm. 
Alex from Glasto: Classic moment or PR stunt?
We've talked about Dave before on these trends and rate him highly both as a musician and as a budding master of self-promotion. But the rapper has found himself sharing a Glastonbury limelight with a 15 year-old bumbag enthusiast after pulling him out of the crowd for an explosive guest appearance. It was too perfect. But was it a set up? We asked competing Borkies to deliver each side of the argument:


Teenager Alex Mann – Glasto punter turned viral sensation – was plucked from the crowd midway through Dave’s set, delivering a flawless performance of song Thiago Silva – nailing the lyrics while oozing charisma and charm.

Cue the so-called wokies (TM Mark Borkowski) and veteran cynics attempting to drown a wonderful moment in a deluge of “reality”.

“PR STUNT” - they proclaim. I don’t buy it, and here’s why.

This isn’t a new trick and boy can it backfire. Last year, Kendrick Lamar pulled a fan from the crowd to sing "M.A.A.D City," only to cause a media storm when the fan dropped an "N-bomb".

In this instance, Alex’s story only brought positive press, one of the feel-good showbiz stories of the year.

Had it been a stunt, Dave’s team would’ve seized this moment had a plan. There would’ve been a single released immediately and interviews pre-organised to capitalise. You can’t miss your mark. Memes can snowball and launch careers: remember Big Shaq? The speed of the single release after the initial viral moment bought him a year of fame.

Instead, Alex has been the star, not Dave. Verified on social media, fashion and modelling deals in the works, even rumours of a record deal.

Alex will eventually fade into obscurity. There might be a novelty single down the road but he’s not talented enough to have any lasting fame because he’s just a teenager that was plucked from a crowd at random and given his 15 minutes.


What a brilliant stunt.

Sorry to be a cynic but - come on guys- this was just too good to be true: The PSG shirt, eager Alex’s position on a mate’s shoulders, so close to the stage, the bum bag and floppy hat so he didn’t look too rock’n’roll, the gauche puppy-dog demeanour giving way fluidly to a near-faultless performance. This was a pre-planned production of genius. 

It was so well produced that it’s almost impossible to rumble it as a stunt, one factor aside: Dave’s face.

Future Mercury-winning, festival-headlining superstar he may be, but Denzel Washington he is not. The patter in the build-up had the nature of something scripted but the smoking gun was the total and utter lack of surprise from the rapper as it was revealed that Alex knew the lyrics, knew how to use a microphone, didn’t freeze up, and was actually pretty good.

Surely, were that not a stunt, he’d have been gobsmacked?

Admittedly the PR impact of the stunt was helped by outside factors: Thiago’s tweet – whose virality I believe was entirely organic and spontaneous - helped turbocharge the tale.

I’m not even mad at Dave. This was glorious feel-goodery. Stunt or not, when the residue of an action is so positive, few look back and feel duped.
Tree controversy lacks humanity that sets theatre apart

Theatre is often ahead of other artforms in terms of fostering a spirit of inclusivity, collaboration and humanity.

So the industry was rocked this week when writers Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley published a letter claiming to have been instrumental to the creation of Tree (a musical based on Idris Elba’s concept album Mi Mandela, coming to the Young Vic this month) only to be semi-ghosted and then dumped from the project in a manner which lacked clarity, honesty and empathy (to put it mildly).

Kwame Kwei-Armah, the Young Vic’s feted artistic director – now credited as co-creator and director of Treerefuted the allegations claiming that the change in the project’s authorship was a natural development and blaming the pair’s grievance on a refusal to engage with that process (with a veiled pop at their original script in there as well if you read closely).

Idris Elba produced a briefer statement brusquely dismissing Tori and Sarah’s claims that they had been brusquely dismissed from the project. It was a little tone deaf.

It’s all a bit of a mess to be honest. The competing accounts are so inconsistent that it’s impossible to know the truth of the matter as outsiders

One thing to consider though is that theatre is a particularly empathetic and humane industry – the whole thing is an attempt to understand human nature and that means that theatre-makers approach each other (and audiences) with a degree of emotional intelligence and duty of care you wouldn’t come across often in, say, film or dance music. Certain parties in this sorry incident seem not to have held themselves to these standards, and therein lies the risk of becoming an industry pariah.

Cybernats seek Bruce Boost

Something of a stooshie erupted north of the border this week when it was revealed that the new Robert The Bruce film wasn’t picked up for distribution by Cineworld. In a lightning bolt of opportunism, former SNP leader Alex Salmond joined lead actor Angus Macfadyen on the vanguard of those demanding the film receive a release.

Needless to say this was seized upon by the Cybernats and repackaged as a conspiracy to keep Scots from learning about their heritage in such an inspiring form that it might lead to an 'upswell in patriotic sentiment' – with some nastier connotations thrown in.  

Ultimately Cineworld relented and their campaign was successful – although box office figures have been more modest. But the real winner here is Alex Salmond and a breed of Scottish independence supporters who feeds on the narrative that the Scots are an oppressed minority. In that context a friendly neighbourhood conspiracy theory which underlines their point was nothing shot of a banquet, and another example of how easily a shark-like cynic can manipulate a news agenda as long as they have  a baying mob at their behest.

Sympathy vote for Taylor Swift?

Taylor Swift is back. Two new singles and an album scheduled for October signal that the machine is running at full steam.

But as her star continues to rise to galaxies of fame rarely explored, Taylor has become embroiled in another media story to which her response amounts to ‘poor me’.

Should we feel sorry for her? Yes and no…

The most recent drama saw her try to purchase her music catalogue and royalties by buying out her former label Big Machine Record. The nemesis in this story, Scooter Braun, has acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group — and with it the rights to Taylor Swift’s first six albums.

As a result, Taylor has poured her heart out on social media targeting her fans directly, with the hashtag #standwithtaylor trending to vast levels of sympathy: a PR maestro strikes again.

Here’s the thing: judging this story purely within the context of the music industry you shouldn’t fell that sorry for her. This isn’t a unique position; this type of rights dispute and outcome is nothing new – it occurs frequently among independent artists and, sometimes, legends like Prince.

And remember, Taylor has come out on the other end of it to become one of the most successful recording artists in the world. She has massively benefited from her industry backing.

Where it’s possible to have sympathy is when considering the fact that artists are so rarely afforded the opportunity to own their own music.

Record labels control their artists, capitalising predatorially on the lack of rules and regulations protecting them.

Whether you like Taylor or not, this is manipulative and demoralising for any artist who lands in a similar situation. When it comes to ownership and control of the music you’ve created under a label, sadly, you’re going to be a loser.
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